Fleetwood Town 3 Cheltenham Town 2: First win sealed in thrilling late goal spree
Fleetwood finally got their season up and running with a victory at home to Cheltenham, in a grandstand finish that left both sets of supporters breathless.
But Town refused to settle for a point and Shayden Morris pounced on 90 minutes to snatch victory.
In a bid to turn around Town’s fortunes, Simon Grayson made four changes to the starting team from their midweek defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.
Brad Halliday, James Hill, Callum Morton and Ged Garner all missed out, all but Halliday dropping to the bench. Coming into the starting line-up were Johnson at right-back and Morris ahead of him in the midfield, with Anthony Pilkington and Ryan Edmondson teamed up in the attack.
Cheltenham boss Michael Duff had been hoping Kyle Vassell would overcome a calf injury picked up in their midweek victory against Ipswich and face his former club but the striker didn’t make the squad, Alfie May taking his place up front. The Robins’ other change saw Scott Flinders replace Owen Evans in goal.
The Cod Army began the game comfortably enough, with Morris tormenting both Chris Hussey and William Boyle with terrific pace and a sense of adventure going forward.
But it was the visitors who took the lead, with just seven minutes played. A neat move through the midfield culminated in Andy Williams sliding a perfect through-ball for Callum Wright.
His perfectly-timed run was matched by a neat finish into the bottom corner, with the exposed Alex Cairns helpless to rescue his side.
If anyone had been thinking the hosts, with four defeats from their four games so far, would crumble at that early setback, no-one told Danny Andrew, who almost marked his 100th league game for Fleetwood by getting them back on terms with a terrific volley.
The left-back was the only Fleetwood player to find the net previously in League One and he connected beautifully with Pilkington’s by-line cross to the edge of the box.
And, although his fierce volley skidded off the turf in front of Flinders, the keeper got just enough behind it to send to ball to safety.
A fantastic chance came Fleetwood’s way just when Edmondson got the better of Ben Tozer.
He may have been entitled to go for goal himself but instead sent his pass too far ahead of the oncoming Harrison Biggins, allowing the Robins defence to put the ball behind.
But the equaliser did come from the resulting corner, as Tom Clarke rose to meet Andrew’s inch-perfect delivery and bury his header into the Cheltenham net.
It could have got better for Grayson’s men when Morris got the better of Hussey and managed to nod a ball for Pilkington to run on to, Flinders racing out to save at the forward’s feet to ensure parity at the break.
After almost 15 minutes of a second half in which both teams played more direct but neither could impose their authority on the game, Fleetwood went agonisingly close three time in quick succession.
Callum Camps nipped in to gather a wayward pass and play in Morris on the right, his shot going straight at Flinders.
A minute later Flinders also denied Biggins from Pilkington’s ball across the face of the goal, reacting well to save. And Johnson was a matter of inches away from putting Town ahead at the resulting corner but sent his powerful header against the crossbar.
When Johnson finally broke the second-half deadlock on 80 minutes, it seemed like they would be able to fend off a Cheltenham side that looked to have lost its way slightly.
But May pounced with three minutes to go, seemingly snatching a draw and breaking Fleetwood hearts.
And as the draw seemed inevitable, Town substitute Callum Morton went down in the box.
The appeals for a penalty made way for raucous cheers as Morris latched on to the loose ball and fired in a deserved winning goal.
Fleetwood: Cairns, Johnson, Clarke, Holgate, Andrew, Morris, Rossiter, Camps (Batty 73), Biggins, Edmondson (Morton 63), Pilkington (Garner 79).
Cheltenham: Flinders, Raglan (Blair 84), Tozer, Boyle, Long, Wright, Thomas, Sercombe (Perry 75), Hussey, Williams (Lloyd 45).
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